by Kiran Sury
previewed on PC
Through the fire and flames
Shank was a solid 2D brawler when it was released, but it didn’t find as large an audience as it desired. It was basically a love/hate kind of game: If you mastered the controls, you loved it. If you got your ass handed to you over and over again, well, if you still loved it than good for you, but you probably should ease up on the whips and chains. I fell in between. My first half hour had me regretting my purchase, but once I learned how to use the block button I was chainsawing my way through cabrones with glee. My major complaint was the game’s length – it was over before the last body hit the floor. The upcoming release of Shank 2 should remedy that. My skills have probably atrophied though; it might be time to break out the black leather again.
Do you really need a reason for more Shanking?
The first thing that’s noticeable about Shank 2 was the upgraded visuals. Jeff Agala has stayed true to his original motif - there’s no drastic shift to realistic graphics or cartoony cel-shading. However, everything seems richer, more vivid, and more like a graphic novel in its grittiness. According to creator Jamie Cheng, the art resolution has been doubled. This lends itself well to the new environmental interactivity. Buildings crumble as you run past them, flames threaten to destroy the platforms you fight on and there are quite a few more explosions. It all contributes to a feeling of real danger. Enemies might not always be your greatest concern. “Shank 1 really was the static, painted beautiful environment,” explains Jamie. “This time around we wanted to include you in that environment.”
Though the first game’s story could best be described as Kill Bill Mexico, it had quite the pedigree behind it. Klei hired Marianne Krawczyk, writer for the God of War series, to flesh out the motivations of the characters involved. She has returned for the sequel, and promises a new storyline. Klei is keeping a lid on the plot, but the game takes place after the first, after Shank completes his revenge. He goes back home, but things are far from back to normal, and he heads out to fight once more. Don’t expect too heavy a plot, though. There are no deep, dark secrets in Shank’s past. According to Jamie, the story is really just the impetus to more shanking, and the gameplay is first and foremost. I find that a relief. A ‘Luke I am your father’ moment would just seem out of place.
Guns don’t kill people. Shank does.
Shank was often classified as an action-platformer, but it was always more about the action than the platforming. You could climb up buildings and swing from hooks, but these were a means of traversal to the next combat sequence rather than core gameplay. The sequel will maintain this trend, with combat as the focus of the game. Luckily, Shank starts out with his entire repertoire of moves and has a bunch of new weapons to work with. The series mainstays, including the chainsaw, pistols and machetes are returning, along with new inclusions like a sledgehammer.